What Happened at SHRM Annual 2019 #SHRM19

by Nathaniel Plamondon | Posted | Industry Buzz

What Happened at SHRM Annual 2019 #SHRM19

Another year, another amazing edition of the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo. The 2019 edition of the show was bigger and better than ever, with an incredible 18,000+ HR professionals in attendance from all over the world! The learning opportunities were endless, with keynotes ranging from expert Dr. Brené Brown to Emmy Award-winner Martha Stewart, sessions spanning every topic under the human resources umbrella (and then some), and an expo hall rich with fellow HR pros to network and share experiences with.

Now, we aren't the types to just show up and not do anything exciting. Here's a wrap-up of what we got up to at #SHRM19.

Sharing real-world talent management success stories

As part of our activity at our booth, we invited some of our customers to share their stories about how they've bettered their organizations. In keeping with SHRM's mission to create "Better Workplaces," we wanted our customers to share how Saba helps make better employees, better leaders, better companies and better conversations.

And depending on when you came to see us, those conversations may have been over margaritas we served at the booth.


Creating the #OnlyAtVulcan employee experience with Tim Mulligan

Vulcan Inc. is a unique organization. The Seattle-based company is the umbrella under which the philanthropic, cultural and scientific endeavors of late founder Paul Allen (Microsoft co-founder) live, and includes ownership of the Seattle Seahawks, Portland Trail Blazers, the Museum of Pop Culture, the Allen Institute for Brain Science and so much more. Covering subject matter areas ranging from sports to entertainment to computing to biology, Vulcan finds itself in a unique set of circumstances when it comes to defining its talent strategy.

Vulcan's approach needed to be flexible and applicable to the breadth of their portfolio, so Tim Mulligan, our guest, developed the #OnlyAtVulcan program. Built on a foundation of continuous performance management – regular 1:1 meetings, open lines of communication and employee feedback, frequent performance appraisals – the #OnlyAtVulcan approach helped create a culture of high performance, aligned employee activity to the company's core goals, and created transparency.

CHRO Tim Mulligan's approach was based on his successes building an amazing talent program at the San Diego Zoo – an approach that was detailed in his book "Roar: How To Build a Resilient Organization the World Class San Diego Zoo Way." As part of his talk at the Saba booth, Tim launched the updated paperback edition of the book by offering signed copies to attendees.


How Sally Beauty laid the foundation for engagement and retention

Our second speaker was Yvette Birlew from Sally Beauty, who shared the company's story of using Saba to provide learning opportunities, regular coaching communication and career line-of-sight for Sally Beauty employees. For Sally Beauty, building out the program was a big first step, but buy-in and adoption were key factors to their success.


Yvette and her team launched their learning program with a name, "Thrive," meant to denote the importance of growth. The branding of the effort was one step in boosting adoption, but the Sally Beauty people team didn't stop there. They held regular training sessions on how the system is used to ensure that there was process clarity across the organization, and made sure to show employees how the program benefited them. The "what's in it for me" question is persistent when it comes to launching training programs, and this instance was no different.

So, how successful were they? Well, they achieved their "year one" goal in the first three weeks.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery builds a culture of personalized performance management

"We communicate thoughtfully in all directions."

That's the nugget behind Dogfish Head Craft Brewery's philosophy when it comes to talent development. The beer company has experienced significant growth over the past several years, and its talent strategy has been instrumental in that.

Culture is the core of what makes Dogfish Head unique, and it starts with how they treat each other. As HR Manager Bailey Borzecki puts it, at Dogfish, "employee is a four-letter word." For them, everyone is a coworker. It's an attitude that opens up lines of communication across different levels of authority or seniority.

The culture-forward thinking extended to hiring as well. When an audience member asked Bailey how they deal with getting through such a large number of applicants (after all, who doesn't want to work with beer), Bailey talked about cultural fit. For them, that meant finding someone who felt like "a good fit for the team both at 9am and after 5pm."


Curves gym converts analog trainees to digital learners

Our final presentation came from Amanda Merriam, head of training for the women's' fitness chain Curves. Being a franchise-based business, especially one spanning the entire globe as Curves does, imparting change communication and training is instrumental to creating a consistent experience for customers, and that meant getting Curves moved to a web-based training delivery system.

In a similar fashion to how Sally Beauty pushed for adoption, program branding and marketing were instrumental in Curves' success. But even more important to this process was making the transition easy for learners who were accustomed to receiving their training via DVDs in the mail. In Saba, the Curves training team provided a library of common questions, gave frequent guided tours of the system, and were exhaustive in how they tagged their learning content in order to make it as easy to find as possible.

An unintended success of Curves' implementation of Saba was the uptake on Saba Social Learning. By connecting franchises from across the globe, employees were able to celebrate successes and share experiences – the "staff felt like they were part of a bigger mission."

Tim Sackett & Kris Dunn chop it up on LinkedIn Live

Our awesome customers weren't the only ones to stop by the booth for a chat. We also had a visit from two of our favorite thought leaders in the HR space, Tim Sackett and Kris Dunn. If you frequent this blog then you'll no doubt recognize them from our TalentTalks video series on YouTube.

Tim and Kris sat down in our booth for a chat about "helping managers get the best performance from their people" on LinkedIn Live. They talked about Kris' brand new book, "The 9 Faces of HR: A Disruptor's Guide to Mastering Innovation and Driving Real Change" which identifies the different attitudes HR pros hold and how they help and hinder organizational progress. They chatted about what kind of feedback employees actually want. They talked about making performance ratings more meaningful.

You can re-watch the broadcast here (it starts at around the 3:10 mark), and be sure to stay until the end when we deliver these two notorious hoops heads a special gift from some people in our Canadian office.


Watch Tim Sackett & Kris Dunn on LinkedIn Live

What did you see at SHRM?

If you were at #SHRM19, what did you notice about the show that stood out? Was there a theme to the sessions you attended? Did you find yourself having similar conversations with lots of different people? Did anything blow your mind?

Let's have a conversation! Give us your biggest takeaways from #SHRM19 in the comments below. Can't wait to see you all at the SHRM Annual Conference again next year.

The Essential Guide to Career Development and Coaching

Growth-minded companies need to rethink their stance on career development


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Cover of the book

The Essential Guide to Career Development and Coaching

Growth-minded companies need to rethink their stance on career development


Download Now


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